Kuchar's victory pays heady dividendstext sizeAugust 29, 2010
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
PARAMUS, N.J. -- It's not like we shouldn't have seen this coming.
Final-round coverage WHO'S OUT?: Who got eliminated from the PGA TOUR Playoffs Sunday? Find out here. More TIGER WOODS: The world's top-ranked player kept his Playoffs alive, securing a spot in the next two events. More
After all, this is a man who was reeling off top-10 finishes faster than Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson and Stewart Cink can send out tweets. To the tune of nine already this season, two of which came in major championships.
The 10th couldn't have come at a better time for Kuchar, either, as he beat Martin Laird with a brilliant approach that set up a 3-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to win The Barclays on a steamy and seismic Sunday afternoon.
"I've been so happy with my performance this year," Kuchar said. "And I knew it was a matter of time. It was one of those things that I knew if I put myself in contention enough times I was going to break through."
He did it in a big way, too. The win came in the first event of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup and propelled Kuchar to the top of the standings in the race for the $10 million bonus.
Not to mention, the victory, coupled with his overall consistency this season, certainly established Kuchar as a Player of the Year candidate. He's likely moved from 23rd to 10th in the world rankings, too.
Not that Kuchar wants to consider such postseason awards, though.
"You'd have to show me a list (of the candidates)," he said. "I'm glad I don't have a vote on that. ... There's been a lot of great performances. I'm not even going to try to think about that."
Of course, the humble Kuchar and all the other members of the PGA TOUR do have a vote if they want it -- and more often than not in the last decade, it's gone to Tiger Woods. With the world No. 1 winless in this turbulent year, though, the voting is wide open, and a strong run through the Playoffs could seal the deal for any one of a handful of players, Kuchar now included.
But the win, the third of his career, and the second in as many years, is what he covets. The rest, if it is to be, will take care of itself. Just as a 10th-place finish at the PGA secured his Ryder Cup debut.
"It's a home game. It's a course I know. It would be great to have friends and family there."
-- Matt Kuchar, on sealing a spot in THE TOUR Championship at East Lake
"I would have shut down the year had I not won and been very pleased," Kuchar said. "To win, it's an incredible year.
"There's nothing like the feeling of winning a PGA TOUR golf tournament. You feel like you are the best player in the world for this week. It's just an amazing feeling to think there's 125 of the best players in the world started this week and I came out first. And it's ... one I'm awfully proud of."
The victory assured Kuchar a spot at East Lake, where he played golf as a student at Georgia Tech, in the Playoffs finale, THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola. And he'll likely be among the top five in the FedExCup standings who will control their own destiny when the silver Tiffany trophy is handed out.
"It's been No. 1 on my goal list ... for a number of years," Kuchar said. "It's a home game. It's a course I know. It would be great to have friends and family there. To lock it up is a great feeling."
Kuchar is the same modest, motivated man who first burst onto the nation's consciousness when he played in the Masters as a 19-year-old and tied for 21st. He's got considerably less hair now but is blessed with an All-American family -- wife Sybi and their two young sons, who entertained themselves on Ridgewood's tennis courts while he did his post-round interviews.
Kuchar, who won the first U.S. Amateur held after Woods turned pro and ended his three-year stranglehold on the title, has taken his lumps as a pro. He won the 2002 Honda Classic but lost his card after the two-year exemption was up and went back to the Nationwide Tour to ressurect his game.
It's been a steady climb since Kuchar made his way back to the TOUR, though, and this year he's quietly been one of the best as he closed in on that elusive win. Kuchar leads the TOUR in scoring average with a 69.62 average and ranks first in the All-Around category that measures every part of your game.
"I love playing golf," Kuchar said simply. "I love practicing. I love everything about it. I love having chances. And even when the chances don't go your way, I think it makes you tougher, makes you stronger. If you don't get beaten up by it, if you keep on stepping forward, all those close calls, they're going to make you better for opportunities in the future.
"It's fun. I have a great time out here. ... I've got a great family. I enjoy life as a professional golfer. ... It's a great way to make a living. And I feel awfully fortunate."
But make no mistake, Kuchar has made his fortune this year.